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How to effectively reduce your waste and be more sustainable

Raise your hand if you hate taking out the rubbish. I do: that's why it is my boyfriend's chore.

I am shocked by the monstrous amount of unnecessary waste that we produce every single day. Last year, I started to notice that we were struggling to keep our rubbish in the house when we have the collection from the council two days a week. I don't know you guys, but they were never enough for us and we are just a couple. After two days, our bin was already full again.

It might seems selfish and stupid but that's when I begun to make more sustainable choices for the environment.

I made some researches and read a lot of blogs and watched tons of documentaries and I have learned some very practical tips that I would like to share with you in order to reduce our waste. I now am ashamed of the old me, when I think how much stuff I used to irresponsibly throw away without a second thought.

That's the main method I am following right now:

1) Reduce: Using up what you already have instead of buying new

Think about that ice cream plastic container: instead of throwing it away, use it to store food or organise your small items in a drawer. That glass jar from the jam you ate: same thing.

2)Using packaging options that aren't plastic

Plastic is down cycled while glass, bamboo, stainless steel and cardboard are recyclable.

3)Zero: Refill or buying products with no packaging at all

Opting for no packaging is the ultimate level to avoid waste.

It is a long journey and I am still working to make some of the swaps that I am listing below. The hardest part for me is the beauty section, as I am obsessed with anything skin care related. Some of the items are more expensive and sometimes it is hard to let go of your favourite cosmetic brand to shop something that you don't know if you are going to like.

But these changes are necessary to make this world a better place.

I am aware that it is not going to happen overnight but I am determined to make my part.

Cancel unnecessary mail and go paperless

Piles and piles of bills, bank statements, letters of all sorts, receipts, which means loads of paper in the bin. Going paperless is convenient and better for the environment. Bonus: no more loosing bills or throwing away shop receipts by mistake when everything is saved online and in your inbox!

Store chopped vegetables into glass jars to make them last more:

This is one of my absolute favourite tips to prolong the life of my vegetables. It happens to everyone, no matter how careful you are, to find rotten food in the fridge and I hate it. I hate waste in general. So I made some researches and found that most veggies can be stored in glass jar full of water. I immediately tried it with celery, carrots and leeks and I was impressed by the result. Bonus: you fridge will be incredibly tidy and organised so you will find everything in a second. The only side effect is that you need to clean and cut everything right after your shopping but it is totally worth it in my opinion.

Egg shells

They rich in calcium, so I found a great recipe to make eggshell water for houseplants here.

Veggie scraps

Store bought stock is full of salt and nasty stuff so I decided to make my own. It is actually super easy and quick and it reduces drastically the amount of food waste, which is what we would like to achieve here. Find the procedure here.

Coffee grounds

I am a huge fan of coffee and I use what's left for a DIY anti-cellulite body scrubs adding coconut oil or as a natural sink drainer.

Banana peels

They are amazing to clean dirty shoes and your plant leaves. You can also use them to fertilise your garden (I use it to give a boost to my indoor plants once in a while): the recipe of a super easy DIY banana peel fertiliser for the garden here.

Apple cores

Make apple juice by filling a pot with water an inch above the cores, boil for 30 minutes and then strain.

Citrus peels

Orange, lime, lemon, grapefruit peels can be stored in a glass jar with white vinegar for two weeks and then the liquid can be used as a powerful multipurpose cleaner that really smells good.

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Drink tap water or invest in a filter jug:

No more plastic bottle please. I don't like tap water either, but I filter it and it is much better. In alternative, be creative and ad some fruits or herbs to you water to improve the taste.

My favourite recipes are:

  • mint and lemon

  • ginger and lemon

  • orange, mint and lemon

  • cucumber and lemon

Rely on reusable glass containers

Milk bottles, glass jars and so on from store bought items can be cleaned and reused to store food making your pantry more organised. This is even more important when you are buying loose food, which is also a great idea to avoid unnecessary packaging.

Shop local and buy loose food

I am a huge supporter of local markets and shops as I believe they offer a better service and they have loose seasonal food, not wrapped in plastic.

Also, I enjoy the human relationship you can have with them rather than just browsing in endless and cold supermarkets aisles. I still shop in my local supermarket from time to time when I can't find what I am looking for but it is 10%-20% of my shopping.

Swap tea bags with loose leaf tea, seeds or flowers.

Bring your own bag

No need to comment on this one. I personally bought a trolley like a proper granny years ago because it is more spacious and practical for me. It is also foldable so it won't take a lot of space in the flat.

Invest in reusable kitchen tools

If you spend a lot of time cooking like I do, reusable tools are a more sustainable choice to make and also better for your wallet.

Silicone moulds and baking mats instead of parchment paper

Bee wax instead of foil, which is not biodegradable.

Plastic free beauty

I lately realised that beauty is the second responsible of plastic waste in my bin.

I then started to make more homemade face masks, body scrubs and body lotions on my own with natural ingredients from what I have in the pantry and in the fridge (I am going to make a post about that real soon with the best recipes).

If DIY is not floating your boat, there are many more eco friendly brands that are banning packaging such as Lush, just to mention the most famous and popular one but nowadays there are more and more options available from local brands, even from Amazon.

The best part of solid cosmetics is that you can bring them with you when you are travelling!

I am still very new to this so I haven't tried much, but I am going to link below what I have found so far:

Solid shampoo:

Solid conditioner:

Natural Deodorant Stick, Plastic Free, Aluminium Free, Cruelty Free, Eco Friendly (Sandalwood & Bergamot)

Unbleached honeycomb natural sea sponge instead of plastic sponges

Swap tampons with a menstrual cup

1 tampon every 6 hours = 4 tampons per day x 5 days of a period = 20tampons per cycle x 456 periods = 9,120tampons. That's the average consumption of tampons a woman will use in her life. A tampon takes 500-800 years to break down in the landfill.

I am not going to be part of this anymore. I bought a menstrual cup and I will never go back! It is such a life changing thing: 12 hours of protection and absolutely NO LEAKS! I don't know why on earth I didn't try this sooner in my life!

Swap cotton pads and wet wipes for face cloths

Bamboo flannels specifically would be the best option.

Bamboo towels are very soft, more absorbent than standard cotton and they are naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.

At the end of their useful life, the fibres of the flannel will naturally decompose completely into the earth.

Say no to disposable cutlery and straws.

If you are often eating out, bring with you a set of cutlery and avoid plastic.

Bring a reusable cup and stainless steel bottle with you at all times

No paper towels: go back to cotton cloth

Cloth napkins remember me of my childhood. I never used paper towels in Italy because we have the tradition of setting the table properly with a cute table cloth and matching napkins all the time, even for breakfast. It is a great habit that I want to keep while in London as it adds a nice touch to my meals.

I use old t-shirt and towels to make reusable cloth to clean the house with.

Eco friendly Loofah or silicone instead of plastic sponges

Common sponges have a very short life period and they are usually very gross. Loofah is 100% biodegradable while silicone will last forever, so in the long term it is also making you save money.

Silicone food bags instead of plastic containers:

I have tried glass containers with a bamboo lid but they are heavy to carry.

I kept them to store food at home but I bought some silicone food bags to bring lunch to work.

They are amazing indeed: airtight and leakproof (I can even bring soup to work without worrying about spilling it in my bag). I found this great set containing 4 food bags, 6 stretch lids to cover bowls and pots, and 2 silicon sponges!

Thank you for reading my post today, I hope you find it interesting and useful. I definitely didn't want to be judgmental and preachy, because everyone is free to do whatever feels right but at the same time I wanted to encourage to start making some of these swaps as I know you will be proud of yourself and I am sure that it will be motivating to do more for our beautiful planet.

Have a lovely start of the week!